Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Designer Embarrassing Self On Train For Greater Good

Our intrepid designer has been away for a few days at a wedding and presents this report of what he got up to (don't worry, it's all relevant!)

We think his experiences (though not flattering) are all part of the rich tapestry of learning how to talk to people about your game (which might be of interest to other indie devs reading this).

Also, it's entertaining to hear about our designer repeatedly embarrassing himself...

"So the reason I've not been in touch for a couple of days is that I've been off at a wedding in the north. Beautiful wedding. Lovely food. Not very productive?


I thought that since I was going to be off with a tonne of strangers I'd take the opportunity to keep my eyes peeled for iPhone users and (when I spotted them) tell them (all suave and hip style) 'Oh hi! Are you here for the bride or groom - oh! Is that an iPhone? I'm developing a game for the iPhone! You should certainly LIKE our facebook page! Did I mention I'm cool because I'm working on an iPhone game?'

Oh yes! Direct to the public PR! Genius eh?

Well it turns out no, actually.

It seems that the public are weirdly over aware of how we developers need them a lot more than they need us. No one was dumbstruck by how cool I probably am as a result of being on an indie game development team. Instead, they kept saying things like 'Why would I be interested? I already own Bejewelled. Sell it to me!'

Irritatingly, selling a total stranger (who is already cynical in the face of a smug indie developer) the idea behind your game is quite a tough thing to do in real life at a wedding.

Suddenly put on the spot I tended to flounder embarrassingly (did I mention I did this several times? I was SURE that it was just a question of finding someone clever enough to understand how erudite and louche I must be since I'm working on an iPhone game). I even said 'Well... Explorimentation!' to a stony faced old Geordie man at one point.

ADDITIONALLY : I'm SUCH a sucker for punishment that I tried the same trick a couple more times on the train back! This was EVEN MORE embarrassing since when we got to the bit where they weren't impressed by my being a cool indie game designer and wanted me to give them 5 good reasons why they should like our game on facebook (and where I stammered and flailed helplessly - still having not come up with a good plan for what to say at this point) I was stuck sat next to them in a confined space surrounded by other people who could easily listen in to my failure at salesmanship. I even pretended I was getting off at Birmingham at one point in order to get away from one lad.

However, this painful process was at least educational. For one thing, I learned that no one is going to think I'm cool just 'cos I'm developing an iPhone game. That dream is over and I need to just focus on enjoying working on them because I enjoy working on them, not because I might get to snog someone as a result. And anyway, I'm married. I wasn't going to snog any of these people even if they HAD been impressed enough. Especially not that Geordie bloke...

ALSO: knowing full well that The Vegetable Patch is fun and engaging isn't enough if we can't quickly get people to understand why. So I'm going to work on putting together a nice clean couple of sentences that'll sound spontaneous and clever about why you'll want to play our game. We could possibly put them as a tag line for the Blog (or put them on business cards with a QR code on the flip-side).

ALSO: I learned that people are going to envisage what the game's like in terms of 'it's a bit like X, Y and Z combined...' whatever we do.

When I described The Vegetable Patch to people all they wanted really was for me to tell them what sort of things it was like. So I think it'll be good to devise an 'it's a bit like' formula.

Something along the lines of 'It's a bit like Naughts and Crosses, Doodle God and Farmville combined'. Only more accurate.

ALSO: It turns out people are usually very willing to talk about what things they like or don't like about games on their phones. They LOVE it when YOU take an interest in THEM (rather than immediately asking them to take an interest in you). Everyone I talked to became a LOT chattier once I started to say 'Ok. Well as a developer I'm interested to hear what kind of things you like about a game and what draws you to them...'

Thus: In the future I'm going to try a cunning psychological experiment. I'll START with the 'I'm interested in you' type stuff. Make them feel valued and important by seemingly only wanting to know what they think is great on the app store. Then when I've buttered them up I'll drop the 'oh, we have a facebook page, trailer and dev blog if you're interested...' Gadoosh! Stealthed them with the marketing! Easy!"

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